Spencer Ackerman and Gregg Carlstrom both have interesting thoughts on this Mark Perry piece, which includes a "Red Team" group of intelligence officers in CENTCOM engaging in a strategic exercise in which they make pretty clear distinctions between groups like Hamas and Hezbollah on the one hand, and al-Qaeda on the other:
Among its other findings, the five-page report calls for the integration of Hizballah into the Lebanese Armed Forces, and Hamas into the Palestinian security forces led by Fatah, the party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The Red Team's conclusion, expressed in the final sentence of the executive summary, is perhaps its most controversial finding: "The U.S. role of assistance to an integrated Lebanese defense force that includes Hizballah; and the continued training of Palestinian security forces in a Palestinian entity that includes Hamas in its government, would be more effective than providing assistance to entities -- the government of Lebanon and Fatah -- that represent only a part of the Lebanese and Palestinian populace respectively." The report goes on to note that while Hizballah and Hamas "embrace staunch anti-Israel rejectionist policies," the two groups are "pragmatic and opportunistic."
Spencer points out that in these exercises, it's the job of the Red Team to challenge command's assumptions so this isn't CENTCOM's position per se. But even if they one day decided they wanted to pursue a path of reintegrating Hamas and Hezbollah back into the LAF and Fatah respectively, they'd have some trouble. The recent ruling in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project makes it difficult for the kinds of civilian NGOs with post-conflict expertise that can help with this kind of reconciliation work to actually contribute, because if they did they'd come dangerously close to providing "material support for terrorism." The law makes it illegal for such groups to coordinate with designated terror groups even if they're doing so for nonviolent purposes. Oops.
The ruling in the case, which was argued on behalf of the government by Solicitor General Elena Kagan, was considered a big counterterrorism win for the government, in part because charging people under the material-support law has helped them secure a 91 percent conviction rate on terrorism cases. But in some ways the recent ruling may have made the job of countering violent extremism harder.
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